Donibristle DGY S NT160828 1 394 10m SEF
Donibressil 1162 x 1169 Inchcolm Chrs. no. 1 [15th c. copy]
in Donybressell 1179 Inchcolm Chrs. no. 2 [15th c. copy; see discussion below]
(lands of) Donybrissil 1409 Inchcolm Chrs. no. 40 [belonging to the bishop of Dunkeld, exchanged with Inchcolm for the monastery’s lands of Cambo and Clermiston MLO]
(Inchcolm’s dwelling-place of) Dunybirsil 1533 Inchcolm Chrs. no. 56
Donibirsill 1541 Inchcolm Chrs. no. 59
Twnibirsill 1606 RMS vi no. 1704
Dunabirsle 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife
Dunibursal 1753 Roy sheet 17, 5
Dinnybirsal 1775 Ainslie/Fife [Earl of Moray]
Donibristle 1828 SGF
? G dùnadh + pn Breasal; or G dùn + pn Uí Bresail
‘Fortification of Breasal or the Uí Bresail. See Watson 1926, 237; and Thurneysen 1946, 89. Alternatively it may derive form G dùn ‘(fortified) hill, fortification’ qualified by the kin-name ‘Uí Bresail’. Such kin-names were rare, but not unknown, in Scotland, and some even appear in place-names, such as in Kincardine O’Neil ABD (see Watson 1926, 518–9, note to p. 300), and possibly Aboyne ABD.
The traditional association of Dalgety’s parish kirk with St Bridget has already been mentioned (DGY Introduction above). According to Bridget’s genealogy, she belonged to the kin of Uí Bresail. In early medieval Ireland we know that members of a saint’s kin were closely involved with the promotion of his or her cult over a wide geographical area, so this juxtaposition of a St Bridget dedication and a place-name containing her kin-name may not be coincidental (see Ó Riain 1983, 25; CGSH ?670.11).
Donibristle was one of the lands originally held by the bishops of Dunkeld in safe-keeping for the priory of Inchcolm, at the behest of David I, ‘until there should be canons on the island of Inchcolm’ (Inchcolm Chrs. no. 1). Unlike most other lands mentioned in this first charter, the bishops kept a controlling interest in Donibristle until an excambion of 1409 (Inchcolm Chrs. no. 40). This limited interest is expressed in the papal charter of 1179, which is careful to confirm to the canons of Inchcolm only whatever rights they had in Donibristle (quicquid iuris habetis in Donybressell), not Donibristle itself (Inchcolm Chrs. no. 2).
After the Reformation most of the abbey’s lands were acquired by the earls of Moray, and Donibristle House became one of their chief seats.
Donibristle is also the name of what used to be a small coal mining village in the very north of ABO. It was developed in the early nineteenth century on lands belonging to the earl of Moray, which was how it came to be named after the earl’s chief Fife residence. The OS Name Book (dated 1851) states: ‘Donibristle – a small village on Estate of the Earl of Moray occupied by colliers; until of late date it was known as Dirthill but the house being removed which gave rise to that name it is now known as Donibristle’. Dirthill appears as such on Ainslie/Fife (1775), but on a plan of the Moray estate of the Lordship of St Colme from 1836 it appears in the more sanitised form of Darthill (RHP14341). It is called Donibristle in the 1851 Census, and had c.250 inhabitants, consisting chiefly of miners and their families.
Donibristle, or Donibee (Donny Bee) as it became known in forces-speak, was the name given to the RAF airbase established in 1917 and closed in the late 1950s (for a full history of which see Simpson 1999, 92–108). The large industrial estates which grew up on the site of the base are officially named ‘Donibristle Industrial Estate’ and ‘Hillend Industrial Estate’ (both names appearing on OS Pathf.), but locally are referred to simply as the Hillend Industrial Estate. The old station on the main line, which was made for workers at the RAF base, was known as Donibristle Halt. When it was re-opened in recent years it was renamed Dalgety Bay.
This place-name appeared in printed volume 1